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How to harness train and take walks

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Lexi was found as a stray outside. She is used to being outdoors so I don't want to deprive her from being able to go outside nor can I let her out freely since she will run off.
I bought a harness and lead and would eventually like to be able to take her for walks. I've tried taking her out just on a lead, but she freezes and is not sure what to do or tries to take off.
She has never had a harness on her before so I am starting completely from the beginning. Can anyone suggest some training tips to start from harness and progress to taking walks? Thanks for any advice you guys can give me.
post #2 of 14
First of all cats are not dogs and do not really take a walk on the leash and follow you like a dog would. You more/less follow them and alllow them to walk you around.

Mitten was the only cat that was trained to harness and leash. I got him the figure 8 one as a collar/leash will not work on a cat. When I first put it on him, he laid down like he was broke and could not move. Then after wearing it awhile in the house he learned to walk around with it on.

After that, you attach the lead and let them drag it around. But put them in a room with very little furniture so when they freak out they can't get caught up in the lead and really panic. Once they are used to both, then you can start taking them outside.

Find a quiet place and let them explore on their own. Do not push them to walk around - you have to go at their pace every time.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice! I have a figure 8 harness and leash seperate. I put the harness on for about 5-10 mins and played with her so she would be distracted, but hopefully get used to it. How do I know if the harness is too tight? I just got a standard harness and they were all 12-13".
I know that it won't be walking like a dog. I just want her to be able to go out and explore at her own pace and I understand that I will have to to where she wants to go and that is ok with me.
post #4 of 14
You'll just have to experiment on the size thing after they are wearing it for awhile. Took me awhile to adjust Mitten's harness and he was a 14 lb cat. He got out of it several times till I had the right tightness
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
I'm just worried about her choking on it. It fits pretty snuggly on her, so I know it's not too loose and I can still put a few fingers in it so I know it's not too tight.
post #6 of 14
If you can just slip one finger under it without straining it should be correct, as long it's not a matter of easily lifting it with the finger, but having to slip it underneath. Pick a quiet time of day (outside), and be prepared to leave your door open behind you, or with you in it, for some time til she's comfortable being all the way out and still knows the door hasn't shut behind her. Only when she begins to walk away would I quietly close it.
post #7 of 14
You've gotten some good advice. Just wanted to add, I know you don't want to make it too tight but also be sure it's not too loose. I had one of those figure 8 harnesses for an old cat and once while we were outside he totally freaked out when a car drove by and somehow slipped out of it. I think he got it off like a tshirt. Luckily he made a beeline to the backdoor but it could have turned out to be a lot worse.
post #8 of 14
I think the rule of thumb is that it should be able to fit one to two of your fingers between the harness and the cat on both bands that go around the body.

From what I understand, after reading Clicker Training For Cats, it is possible to train them to leash and harness and actually get them to walk next to you, similar to a dog, with the caveat that they don't respond to pressures and commands the way the dog does. I found the book very informative, and I'm attempting to teach my cats to respond to the clicker but after two or three attempted sessions I'm still having a small amount of luck with this... this problem though is due to the number of frenzied kitties I have when bringing out treats..

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in the book. Karyn (I think with the y instead of e) Pryor was the author and it was a fairly short book, easy reading..

Now, from what I recall, she suggested putting the harness with the leash on the cat, and allowing the cat to walk around the house, under supervision. If the cat catches on something, you're there to see it, but catching on something actually teaches the cat to respond to the "leash limits" as it's forced to stop when the pressure is on the leash. The suggestion is to release (or rather, untangle) the cat when it becomes relaxed after becoming "caught".

She also suggests that when you take the cat outside, if he freezes for 10 seconds and then tries to run back inside, then let him go in, as the cat will have to determine how quickly he/she becomes acclimated to the environment.

These, of course, are not direct quotes and I'm just putting it up there from memory. It's entirely possible that I misremembered something (but I hope I retained it properly).
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CatsAreBetter View Post
I think the rule of thumb is that it should be able to fit one to two of your fingers between the harness and the cat on both bands that go around the body.

From what I understand, after reading Clicker Training For Cats, it is possible to train them to leash and harness and actually get them to walk next to you, similar to a dog, with the caveat that they don't respond to pressures and commands the way the dog does. I found the book very informative, and I'm attempting to teach my cats to respond to the clicker but after two or three attempted sessions I'm still having a small amount of luck with this... this problem though is due to the number of frenzied kitties I have when bringing out treats..

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in the book. Karyn (I think with the y instead of e) Pryor was the author and it was a fairly short book, easy reading..

Now, from what I recall, she suggested putting the harness with the leash on the cat, and allowing the cat to walk around the house, under supervision. If the cat catches on something, you're there to see it, but catching on something actually teaches the cat to respond to the "leash limits" as it's forced to stop when the pressure is on the leash. The suggestion is to release (or rather, untangle) the cat when it becomes relaxed after becoming "caught".

She also suggests that when you take the cat outside, if he freezes for 10 seconds and then tries to run back inside, then let him go in, as the cat will have to determine how quickly he/she becomes acclimated to the environment.

These, of course, are not direct quotes and I'm just putting it up there from memory. It's entirely possible that I misremembered something (but I hope I retained it properly).
Thanks for the great advice! I just started to think about trying to clicker train, but have no idea about it and I'm sure this book will help me with any questions I may have. Where do I get the clickers from? I think it would be very interesting if I could get Lexi clicker trained.
post #10 of 14
www.clickertraining.com

I just ordered several clickers from her website, as they're "easy" to click. I find the normal ones a bit more difficult, so I ordered the ones from her site. I think the book is also available there. You can get them, however, in a regular pet store in the dog training area, as this seems to be more commonly a dog training method. I think I paid about $5 for mine at the PetSmart.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CatsAreBetter View Post
www.clickertraining.com

I just ordered several clickers from her website, as they're "easy" to click. I find the normal ones a bit more difficult, so I ordered the ones from her site. I think the book is also available there. You can get them, however, in a regular pet store in the dog training area, as this seems to be more commonly a dog training method. I think I paid about $5 for mine at the PetSmart.
Great! Thanks for all your help. I hope that you will be successful soon and I will let you know how it goes once I get a book to help me out. I'll take a look at that site also.

Sabrina
post #12 of 14
I want to train Diego, because it would be nice to let him walk outside. Also there are lots of shops over here that let you take your pets with you. Mostly dogs of course, so I want to be the original who takes his cat shopping
post #13 of 14
I take mine, but they go on harness and I carry them.. I'd really like to take them for walks.

I started a clicker-training thread in the behavior forum if anyone is interested.. it's sort of the "adventures of clicker training" share your horror (or success) stories here.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
How do I know if the harness is too tight?
The finger trick stopped working for me. Puppy puffs up his body when he goes into the harness.

We just tighten it every time he escapes. At this point, the harness really looks too tight. I have to pull hard to get it on, and he instantly flops over like he can't walk. After about a minute, (when he realizes he's not getting out of it and the side door is wide open), he relaxes, stands up, and saunters out the door. Even still, he can get out of it if he tugs really hard and rolls his body in the right way. Make sure to get a long leash, and never allow the leash to tighten. As long as there's slack, it's hard for them to pull out.
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